862.34/127: Telegram

The Ambassador in France ( Straus ) to the Secretary of State

511. Massigli4 this afternoon showed Marriner5 the French reply to the British communication to the signatories of the naval treaties with reference to the conversations in London between the British and German representatives. While the language of the memorandum is measured Massigli personally was indignant at the way in which the British, in what had been understood to be merely exploratory conversations, had come to a definite understanding with the Germans granting increases in tonnage under the Treaty of Versailles to four times present strength.

In the memorandum it is the French contention that the consequences of the German augmentation to 35% of the English tonnage by categories cannot be limited to the two powers conducting the conversations. Furthermore, that after Stresa, London and Geneva it was certainly the understanding of the French Government that the Treaty of Versailles could not be denounced or altered either unilaterally or bilaterally but only by accord of all parties concerned.

The French Government also restated its position that naval armaments constitute only one part of the problem as the total includes also [Page 166] air and land armaments. The French Government will, in case Germany builds to any such extent, be obliged to increase its fleet in order to maintain a sufficient margin over German war vessels which will all be concentrated in one sea. France wishes to know whether Britain has taken the possibility into consideration. Naturally France understands that no immediate building will be required until such time as the laying down of German keels reaches a mark in any given category that will disturb the balance envisaged by the Treaty of Versailles.

A further question is raised by the French; namely, what will be the effect on German building of any future Russian building and likewise what assurance can there be that the demand for 35% of the British fleet will be maintained if the Soviet Government should augment its naval armaments, a possibility not unlikely if Germany without having subscribed to any Eastern pact should so materially add to its Navy.

Massigli said that the French Government’s views on this subject were wholly in accordance with those of Italy although the French interest was more immediate. It was not thought that any agreement had actually been signed between the English and the Germans on this subject but the very announcement of the project gave Germany a great concession from the principal European naval power as a bargaining point. The French would be most interested in any views of the American Government on this subject.

  1. René Massigli, assistant director of political and commercial affairs in the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  2. Theodore Marriner, Counselor of Embassy.